Have you ever been hanging out with a group of people you only kind of know and so you’re trying your best to come off as someone completely normal and confident and witty and friendly and successful in a completely casual way, then suddenly they start talking about something you know absolutely nothing about?
You listen, trying desperately to find a story or factoid in your brain that would be an appropriate contribution, but nothing comes. So you just sit, smiling and nodding, wishing you’d done more with your life so you could be a well-rounded, knowledge-in-all-things type of person.
As they continue—for much longer than they should on any topic, really, but especially on this particular one which you still know nothing about, making you regret every life choice that didn’t provide you with the most basic of knowledge on it—you briefly consider making something up. Something basic. Something untraceably false that will connect you to these people. But then you worry that your nerves will inadvertently add hyperbole to your statement, making it obvious that it is a lie, completely shooting a hole in your credibility as a conversationalist and overall human being. So ultimately you decide to stay quiet, and though it provokes a few wary glances, you accept them, for it has become clear that you simply cannot relate.
In the world of social media, “relatability” has become a key element in our admiration of others. We love the celebrities that share pictures of themselves sans makeup and in sweatpants, admittedly lazing it up on a Saturday afternoon. We love moms that post horror stories about their children and young adults posting picture after picture of their failed attempts at homemade meals. They post these moments and we repost them, delighted at their humanness, and caption them with things like, “this is totally me.”
When we find these shared peculiarities, especially with those we look up to in the media, we are given a sense of kinship and belonging. Suddenly the things about us we thought were weird are the very qualities that connect us to someone we admire. And as we see those personalities being praised and adored for their candor and uniqueness, we start to believe that we too have that same chance. So we share. We share and we share and we share. We tag and we hashtag. Hoping to be liked. But at what point in this process do we stop striving for honesty and start searching for relatability? When do our interests and our words start shifting away from what we believe and towards what we think others will enjoy?
This is where it seems that being “relatable” becomes less of a happy coincidence and more of a believed standard for acceptance.
But isn’t it the raw honesty of a confession that makes a connection that much more surprising and meaningful? Isn’t it the shock value that makes it fun?
Why pretend that you like decorative DIY pots when you’d rather put flowers in old Arrowhead water bottles?
Why pretend that you know anything about classic movies when you’d rather discuss the newest episode of The Bachelorette?
Why pretend you’re completely put together when you’re perfectly okay with being a hot mess (or vice versa!)?
Why pretend you like organic vegetables when you legitimately CANNOT taste the difference and you’d rather save $40 and buy the non-organic ones?
No matter who you are or what your weird looks like, the world would be lucky to get acquainted. And chances are, the moment you introduce yourself you’d find someone out there saying, “OH MY GOSH ME TOO!”
So stop trying to be relatable, be you and it will come naturally.